TOKYO --- Japan will delay a decision to develop a new advanced fighter jet, four sources said, as military planners struggle to settle on a design and officials splash out on new U.S. equipment such as ballistic missile interceptors and F-35 stealth planes.
Faced with a growing military threat from North Korea and increased activity by Chinese air force jets over the East China Sea, Japan is under pressure to improve its defenses on two fronts.
Any delay to the new fighter, known as the F-3, will raise a question mark over the future of what could be one of the world’s most lucrative upcoming military contracts, estimated at more than $40 billion to develop and deploy.
A decision after the first half of 2018 would be too late for it to be included as a core program in a new five-year defense equipment plan beginning April 2019 that Japan will reveal at the end of next year.
“The direction is for the F-3 decision to be put back,” said one the sources who have knowledge of the discussion. The people who spoke to Reuters asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
They said the decision, on whether to forge ahead as a domestic program or seek international collaboration, would now likely come after 2018.
“Regarding the F-3 decision, including whether we will delay a choice, we have haven’t come to any conclusion,” a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence Acquisition Technology & Logistics Agency said. (end of excerpt)
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